Select Board Establishes Commemoration Committee

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By a 5-0 vote, the Select Board chose to move forward and create an Ad Hoc Commemoration Establishment Committee, charged with determining the best way to celebrate the life and impact of former Reading resident and Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell. According to Tara Gregory, presenting for the Coalition of Us (CATO), the committee would also seek to “explore ways to educate and acknowledge and express accountability for the mistreatment of Bill Russell and his family” while he lived in town. 

CATO member Linda Snow Dockser reminded the board that it had already passed a resolution in 2021 that called for such a commemoration and that this ad hoc committee would help the board follow through with its commitment. The committee’s name was changed, and the inclusion of Russell’s name was removed from the committee until his family’s consent is obtained.

CATO members Philmore Phillip, Tara Gregory, and Linda Snow Dockser

Select Board chair Carlo Bacci expressed concern over the “heavy lift” that might be created by members of some existing boards participating in the committee. He suggested that since the committee’s goals are diversity, equity, and inclusion-oriented, a coalition of existing groups could accomplish the same goal. CATO President Philmore Phillip indicated that forming the ad hoc committee as a town-sponsored group would lend a level of credibility to its work.

“[This is] an opportunity to drive this forward with some great volunteers,” Select Board member Mark Dockser commented.

Path Dedication to Jamie Maughn

The board voted 5-0 to support naming the central spine path in the Birch Meadow Complex for former Conservation Committee, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Birch Meadow Master Plan Committee member Jamie Maughn. “He is a wonderful example of how much better Reading is because of skilled volunteers willing to dedicate their time and energy,” Select Board member Karen Herrick affirmed. The path extends from Castine Field to the complex’s Reading Memorial High School Area.

Volunteer Appointments

Appointments to the Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) and the Board of Health generated discussion as the Volunteer Appointment Sub Committee (VASC) could not reach a consensus on its recommendations. In the VASC, Herrick favored incumbent members Mark Wetzel and Tony D’Arezzo to continue on the CPDC. In contrast, Select Board VASC member Melissa Murphy favored two new applicants, former Select Board member John Arena and local developer Guy Manganiello.

Herrick argued that D’Arezzo brought years of institutional knowledge to the commission, while Wetzel’s professional work in community planning brought vital skills to the CPDC. She also noted that, in the past, it has been typical to not replace existing members on boards and committees who wish to be reappointed. Murphy countered that she thought the town needed a CPDC to push Community Development Director Andrew MacNichol to listen to what community members were saying regarding MBTA Communities compliance. Select Board member Chris Haley agreed, stating that staying with “business as usual” on the CPDC has “put us in this position that I disagree with” and that MBTA Communities “is shaping Reading for the foreseeable future.”

Dockser cautioned the board about making a drastic change to the CPDC. “I am uncomfortable with attempting to create an ideological shift in the [CPDC],” Dockser said. The board voted 3-2 to appoint Arena and Manganiello in four separate votes. Dockser and Herrick were the dissenting votes.

The board voted 3-2 to appoint Sal Bromante as a full member of the Board of Health and Sophie Hansen as an associate member. Haley, Bacci, and Murphy cited Bromante’s experience as a restaurant owner who understands the regulatory environment as to why they favored him as the full member, while Dockser and Herrick determined that Hansen’s background in mental health made her the better candidate for the full member position.

The Board voted 4-0-1, with Herrick abstaining to appoint Stephen Herrick to the Audit Committee. Haley abstained from the vote to appoint members to the Reading Housing Authority. By a 4-1 vote, the board reappointed Stephen Crook as its representative to the RCTV board. Bacci was the dissenting vote. The board voted 5-0 on all other board and committee appointments.

Bacci complained that Herrick had notified Zoning Board of Appeals applicant James Steenbruggen that he had not been appointed before the board’s vote. Herrick shared that she spoke to Steenbruggen to let him know that the VASC would not be recommending him for that committee, suggesting another committee in which he may have an interest. When Bacci brought it up again, Herrick shot back, saying that she thought Bacci was trying to push his way into the VASC when Murphy could not attend due to a family matter. Bacci shared that he had simply been asked to sit on some of the interviews.

Bagel World

After a public hearing, the board voted 5-0 to allow Bagel World at 323 Main Street to expand its hours and open at 5:00 am. Bagel World owner Edward Kantorosinski explained that the earlier opening time will improve customer experience and align the opening time of the Reading location with their other locations. It was pointed out to the board that Starbucks and Dunkin’ are already allowed to open at 5:00 am. Herrick expressed concern that abutters had not been directly notified of the hearing on the matter, while Dockser sought assurances that Bagel World’s drive-through would still not open until 6:00 am.

Traffic and Parking Regulations

After another public hearing, the board approved a new stop sign at the corner of Wentworth Road and Lewis Street by a 5-0 vote. The board also voted 5-0 to declare the fire ladder truck one surplus in anticipation of receiving the new ladder truck this summer.

Charter Update

Haley provided a Charter Review Committee update, sharing that a public forum on proposed charter changes would be held on August 29 at the Reading Public Library. He shared that the committee discussed Reading Municipal Light Department’s place in the charter and making the recall process more restrictive. The committee has not yet voted to recommend the changes to the charter.

Permanent Building Committee

By votes of 5-0, the board nominated Dockser as a temporary member of the Permanent Building Committee for the senior center project. It also voted to nominate whichever person the Council on Aging chooses to fill a slot on the committee. A 5-0 vote extended the Reading Center for Active Living Committee to August 31.

Athletics Naming Advisory Committee

A 5-0 vote chose Herrick to represent the Select Board on the School Committee’s Athletics Naming Advisory Committee. After discussion, the board tabled a vote to join the Massachusetts Clean Energy Trust Fund Energy Agreement as part of the process of joining Green Communities.

Open Meeting Law Complaint

After a short discussion regarding the board’s response to an Open Meeting Law complaint filed by Daniel Dewar, Dockser urged the board to let the process work its way forward with the Attorney General and to not respond to accusations in the matter.

The Select Board adjourned at 10:55 pm.

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